July 27, 2021

Release Day Spotlight + Giveaway: Claimed by J.R. Ward

 

 

Claimed (Lair of the Wolven #1)
Author: J.R. Ward
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Publisher: Gallery Books 

Description:

A heart-pounding new series set in the Black Dagger Brotherhood world, with a scientist fighting to save the timber wolves—and getting caught in a deadly trap herself...

Lydia Susi is passionate about protecting wolves in their natural habitat. When a hotel chain develops a tract of land next to the preserve, Lydia is one of the most vocal opponents of the project—and becomes a target.

One night, a shadowy figure threatens Lydia’s life in the forest, and a new hire at the Wolf Study Project comes from out of nowhere to save her. Daniel Joseph is both mysterious, and someone she intrinsically wants to trust. But is he hiding something?

As the stakes get higher, and one of Lydia’s colleagues is murdered, she must decide how far she will go to protect the wolves. Then a shocking revelation about Daniel challenges Lydia’s reality in ways she could never have predicted. Some fates demand courage, others require even more, with no guarantees. Is she destined to have true love... or will a soul-shattering loss ruin her forever?
 


CLAIMED

Chapter 1

Town of Walters, est. 1834
Upstate New York

Lydia Susi’s Destiny came for her in the veil, on a random Thursday in the early spring.

As she ran along the wooded trail, two miles into a loop that would take her through the preserve’s northeastern acreage, she was measuring the glowing line that topped the contours of the mountains. Soon, the stripe would expand to an aura, and after that, the sun would accept the handoff from the moon, and day would arrive.

Her grandfather had always told her there were two twilights, two gloamings, and if you wanted to find your past, you went into the pines in the evening as the sun went down. If you wanted your future to come to you, you went alone into the forest in the veil, during that sacred transition of night into morning. There, he’d told her, when the distinction between that which ruled the light and that which held domain over the dark was at its narrowest, when the moon and the sun reached for each other before the rotations of their orbits tore them asunder, there was when the mortal could brush up against the infinite and seek answers, direction, guidance.

Of course, that did not mean you got good news. Or what you wanted.

But life was not an √† la carte buffet where you could choose everything that went on your plate—another words-of-wisdom from a man who had lived to be 101 years old still smoking a pipe and drinking a glass of sima after his dinner year round.

Why limit spring to just Vappu? he’d said.

Lydia had never believed in his superstitions. She was a researcher, a scientist, and the kinds of things that her isoisa had gone on about did not fit in with that Ph.D. in biology she’d bought on layaway from the federal government and was still paying off.

So no, she was not out looking for any prognostication from the universe this morning. She was getting her workout done before she headed into her office at the Wolf Study Project. With the way things had been going lately, she was going to blink and it would be seven at night. Short-staffed and under-funded, everything was a fight for resources at WSP, and by the time she locked things up every evening, she was exhausted. So Carpe Cardio was her motto and why she was out in this misty darkness—

Lydia let her stride peter to a halt.

Her breath pumped in clouds that captured and held the moonlight, and as a breeze came across the trail, her body did the same with the chill, grabbing it out of the air and bringing it in under her wind-breaker.

As she shivered, she looked behind herself. The trail she was on was the widest one in the preserve, a highway rather than a street, but she couldn’t see much into the trees. Pines crowded up close to the shoulders of the packed path, and the fog wafting through the craggy trunks and fluffy boughs obscured the forest even more.

In a quick calculation, she figured she was a good three miles from any other human, two miles from her car at the trailhead’s parking area, and a hundred yards from what had caught her attention.

There, up ahead, something was close to the ground, moving.

Fight or flight, Lydia, she thought. What’s it going to be.

She reached around to the small of her back. There were two cylinders mounted on the strap of her fanny pack, and she left the Mace where it was. Clicking on her flashlight and bringing it forward, she swung the beam in a wide arc—

The eyes flashed over on the left, a set of retinas flaring the light back at her as pinpoints. The stare was about three feet from the ground and the pupils were set close together, as predators’ were.

Lydia looked around again.

“I’m not going to bother you,” she said. But like the gray wolf spoke English?

The growl was soft. And then came the rustling. The animal was prowling toward her.

“Oh, shit.”

Except...

Lydia kept the beam down on the fallen pine needles as she, too, walked forward. Something was wrong with the wolf, its gait wobbly and uneven. Yet the spirit of the hunter remained undeterred—and she was identified as its target.

She was about twenty feet away when she got a sense of the fully mature male. He was filled out, at a healthy weight of about a hundred and thirty pounds, and his mottled white, gray, and brown fur was thick and lush, especially at the tail. But his head was hanging at a bad angle, and he was dragging his back paws as he continued to close the distance between them.

It was obvious when the wolf was going to collapse. Though his head remained forward, his body listed to the side, his will staying strong even as his rear legs, and then his forelegs, gave out.

He landed on the soft bed of pine needles on his side, and the struggle was immediate, useless paws batting at thin air and ground cover. As Lydia drew a little closer to him, he snarled, flashing long white fangs, his golden eyes narrowing.

“Shh...” she said as she kneeled down.

Her hand shook as she got out her cell phone. As she called a number from her favorites, she tried to keep her breathing steady.

In the flashlight’s beam, she could see the grayness of those gums. The wolf was dying—and she knew why.

“God damn it, pick up, pick up—” Her words ma-chine gun’d from her mouth. “Rick? Wake up, I’ve got another one. On the main trail—what? Yes, it’s the same—enough with the talking, get your ass out of bed. I’m on the loop, about two miles into the—huh? Yes, bring everything, and hurry.”

She cut the connection as her voice gave out.

Letting herself fall back to a sit, she stared into those beautiful eyes and tried to project love, acceptance, gentleness...compassion. And something got through, the majestic male’s muzzle relaxing, its paws falling still, his flank rising and falling in a shuddering breath.

Or maybe it was dying right now.

“Help is coming,” she said hoarsely to the animal. 

J.R. Ward is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. She lives in the South her family.

Links: http://www.jrward.com/

  

(1) Paperback copy of CLAIMED - Open to US only.

 
 
 
 
 

July 20, 2021

Radar Girls Blog Tour: Excerpt

 

 

Radar Girls  

Author: Sara Ackerman

Release Date: July 27, 2021

Trade Paperback

$16.99 USD

368 pages


Description:

 

WWII historical fiction inspired by the real women of the Women’s Air Raid Defense, RADAR GIRLS follows one unlikely recruit as she trains and serves in secrecy as a radar plotter on Hawaii. A tale of resilience and sisterhood, it sees the battles of the Pacific through the eyes of these pioneering women, and will appeal to fans of Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff.


An extraordinary story inspired by the real Women’s Air Raid Defense, where an unlikely recruit and her sisters-in-arms forge their place in WWII history.


Daisy Wilder prefers the company of horses to people, bare feet and saltwater to high heels and society parties. Then, in the dizzying aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Daisy enlists in a top-secret program, replacing male soldiers in a war zone for the first time. Under fear of imminent invasion, the WARDs guide pilots into blacked-out air strips and track unidentified planes across Pacific skies.


But not everyone thinks the women are up to the job, and the new recruits must rise above their differences and work side-by-side despite the resistance and heartache they meet along the way. With America’s future on the line, Daisy is determined to prove herself worthy. And with the man she’s falling in love with out on the front lines, she cannot fail. From radar towers on remote mountaintops to flooded bomb shelters, she’ll need her new team when the stakes are highest. Because the most important battles are fought—and won—together.


This inspiring and uplifting tale of pioneering, unsung heroines vividly transports the reader to wartime Hawaii, where one woman’s call to duty leads her to find courage, strength and sisterhood.

2

The Bust

Their shack, as Daisy referred to the house, was nestled in a cluster of bent ironwood trees, all by its lonesome. Set back far from the beach to protect it from a direct blast of onshore winds, it still took a constant battering and the salty air and elements had done a fine job reclaiming it. Windowpanes had been blasted opaque, you could see through the back wall, and flowers had taken up residence in the gutters. The siding had gone from forest green to pale green to peeling gray, the roof turned to rust.

    When he had first started working up at the ranch, Daisy’s father had somehow persuaded Mr. Montgomery to sell him the small parcel of beachfront property for the price of a bag of sand. Most likely because it was in no-man’s-land between Waialua and the ranch. And because her father had been the best horse trainer in Hawai’i and everyone knew it.

    She flung open the front door and ran inside. “Mom?” she called.

    All quiet. She tiptoed across the lauhala mat in the living room, avoiding the creaking floorboards. Her mother spent much of her life in one of two states—sleeping or staring out to sea. The bedroom door was cracked and a lump lay under the blankets, pillow over her head. There was no point in trying to wake her, so Daisy ran back outside, hopped on her bike and rode for the stables.

    The air was ripe with burnt sugarcane and a scratchy feeling of dread. She bumped along a dirt road as fast as her old bike would carry her. That plume of black smoke above Schofield caused her heart to sink. So many Japanese planes could mean only one thing. An attack or invasion of some kind was happening. But the sky remained empty and she saw no signs of ships on the horizon.

    By the time she reached the stables, she had worked out what to tell Mr. Silva—the only person at the ranch who was even close to being a friend—and beg that he help her find Moon. Whether or not he would risk his job was another story. Jobs were not easy to come by, especially on this side of the island. Daisy counted herself lucky to have one. When she rounded the corner by the entrance, she about fell over on her bike. Mr. Silva’s rusted truck was gone and in its place sat Mr. Montgomery’s shiny new Ford, motor running and door open.

    As far as old Hal Montgomery was concerned, Daisy was mostly invisible. She had worked for him going on seven years now—since she was sixteen—but she was a girl and girls were fluffy, pretty things who wore fancy dresses and attended parties. Not short-haired, trouser-wearing, outdoorsy misfits. And certainly not horse trainers and skin divers. Nope, those jobs belonged to men. There was also the matter of her father’s death, but she preferred not to think about that.

    Should she turn around and hightail it out of there before he caught sight of her? He’d find out eventually, and he would be livid. Daisy pulled her bike behind the toolshed and slipped around the back side of the stables, peering in through a cloudy window. The tension in the air from earlier had dissipated and the horses were all quiet. A tall form stood in front of the old horse—Ka‘ena—she was supposed to ride. It was hard to tell through the foggy pane, but the man looked too tall and too thin to be Hal Montgomery.

    Horsefeathers! It was Walker, Montgomery’s son. A line of perspiration formed on the back of her neck and she had the strong urge to flee. Not that Daisy had had much interaction with Walker in recent years. He was aloof and intimidating and the kind of person who made her forget how to speak, but he loved Moon fiercely. Of that she was sure. Just then, he turned and started jogging toward the door. His face was in shadow but it felt like he was looking right at her. She froze. If she ducked away now, he would surely catch the movement. She did it anyway.

    She had just made it to her bike when Walker tore out of the tack room with a wild look in his eye. He had a rifle hanging across his chest, and he was carrying two others. He stopped when he saw her. “Hey!” he said.

    “Oh, hello, Mr. Montgomery.”

    He wore his flight suit, which was only halfway buttoned, like he’d been interrupted either trying to get in it or trying to get out of it. His face was flushed and lined with sweat. “Don’t you know we’ve been attacked? You ought to head for cover, somewhere inland.”

He was visibly shaken.

“I saw the planes. What do you know?” she said.

“Wheeler and Schofield are all shot up, and they did a number on Pearl. Battleships down, bay on fire. God knows how many dead.” His gaze dropped to her body for a moment and she felt her skin burn. There had been no time to change or even think about changing, and she was still in her half-wet swimsuit, hair probably sticking out in eleven directions. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I was worried about the horses,” she said.

“That makes two of us. And goddamn Moon is not in his stall. You know anything about that?”

Taking Moon had been about the dumbest thing she could have done. But at the time, it seemed a perfectly sane idea. The kind of thinking that got her into plenty of trouble over the years. Why hadn’t she learned? She looked at the coconut tree just past him as she spoke. “I have no idea. Perhaps Mr. Silva has him?”

“Mr. Silva went to town last night to see his sister,” he said.

She forced herself to look at him, feeling like she had the word guilty inked onto her forehead. “Looks like you have somewhere to be. You go on, I’ll find Moon. I promise.”

Her next order of business would be scouring the coast and finding that horse before Walker returned. There would be no sleeping until Moon was safely back at the stables.

“I sure hope so. That horse is mighty important to me,” he said.

Tell him!

She was about to come clean, when he moved around her, hopped in the car and slammed the door. He leaned out the window and said, “Something tells me you know more than you’re letting on, Wilder.”

With that, he sped off, leaving her standing in a cloud of red dirt and sand.

In the stables, the horses knew the sound of her footsteps, or maybe they smelled the salt on her hair. A concert of nickers and snorts erupted in the stalls. Daisy went to the coatrack first, and slid on an oversize button-up that she kept there for chilly days. It smelled of hay.

“How is everyone?” she said, stopping at each one to rub their necks or kiss their noses. “Quite a morning, hasn’t it been?”

Peanut was pacing with nostrils flared, and she spent a few minutes stroking his long neck before moving on. Horses were her lifeblood. Feeding, grooming, riding, loving. She only wished that Mr. Montgomery would let her train them—officially, that was. Without being asked as a last resort by Mr. Silva when everyone else had tried. Lord knew she was better than the rest of the guys. When she got to Moon’s stall, all the blood rushed from her head. The door had been left open and two Japanese slippers hung from the knob. She had hidden them in the corner under some straw—apparently not well enough.

Damn.

Just then she heard another car pull up. The ranch truck. A couple of the ranch hands poured out, making a beeline to the stables. Mr. Montgomery followed on their heels with a machete in his hand and a gun on his hip. Daisy felt the skin tighten on the back of her neck. His ever-present limp seemed even more pronounced.

When he saw her, he said, “Where’s Silva?”

No mention that they were under attack.

“In town,” she answered.

“What about Walker?”

“Walker just left in a big hurry,” she answered.

One of the guys had his hunting dog with him. It was a big mutt that enjoyed staring down the horses and making them nervous, as if they needed to be any more nervous right now. Daisy wanted to tell him to get the dog out of there, but knew it would be pointless.

“The hosses in the pasture need to be secured,” Mr. M said.

“Do you need my help?” she offered.

“Nah, you should get out of here. Get home. Fuckers blew up all our planes and now paratroopers are coming down in the pineapple fields. Ain’t no place for a woman right now.”

Daisy wanted to stay and help, but also wanted to get the hell away before he noticed that Moon was not here. “Yes, sir.”

He stopped and sized her up for a moment, his thick brows pinched. “You still got that shotgun of your old man’s?”

“I do.”

“Make sure it’s loaded.”


On her way home, Daisy passed through Japanese camp, hoping to get more information from Mr. Sasaki, who always knew the latest happenings. A long row of cottages lined the road, every rock and leaf in its place. The houses were painted barn red with crisp, white trim. On any given Sunday, there would have been gangs of kids roaming the area, but now the place was eerily empty.

“Hello?” she called, letting her bike fall into the naupaka hedge.

When she knocked and no one answered, she started pounding. A curtain pulled aside and a small face peered out at her and waved her away. Mrs. Sasaki. She was torn, but chose to leave them be. With the whispers of paranoia lately, all the local Japanese folks were bound to be nervous. She didn’t blame them.

This time when Daisy ran up to the shack, her mother was sitting on the porch drinking coffee from her chipped mug.

She was still in her nightgown, staring out beyond the ocean. When she was in this state, a person could have walked into their house and made off with all of their belongings and her mother would not even bat an eye.

Daisy sat down next to her. “Mom, the Japanese Army attacked Pearl Harbor and Wheeler and who knows where else.”

Her mother clenched her jaw slightly, took a sip of her coffee, then set it down on the mango stump next to her chair. “They said it would happen,” she said flatly.


    “This is serious, mom. People are dead. Civilians, too. I don’t know how many, but the islands are in danger of being invaded and there are Japanese ships and planes all around. They’re telling us to stay inside.”

A look of worry came over her mom’s face. “You should go find a safer place to stay, away from the coast.”

“And leave you here?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“I’m not leaving you.”

Her mom shrugged.

She knew Louise couldn’t help it, but a tiny part of Daisy was waiting for that day her mother would wake up and be the old Louise Wilder. The mother of red lipstick and coconut macaroons, of beach bonfires and salty hugs. The one who rode bikes with her daughter to school every day, singing with the birds along the way. The highs and lows had been there before, but now there were only lows and deeper lows.

After some time, her mother finally spoke. “Men, they do the dumbest things.”

“That may be true, but we’re at war. Does that mean anything to you?” Daisy said, her voice rising in frustration.

“Course it does, but what can we do?”

She had a point. Aside from hiding in the house or running away, what other options were there? Used to doing things, Daisy was desperate to help, but how? Their home was under attack and she felt as useful as a sack of dirt.

Louise leaned back. On days like these, she retreated so far into herself that she was unreachable. You could tell by looking in her eyes. Blank and bottomless. Mr. Silva always said that you could see the spirit in the eyes. Dull eyes, dull spirit. That Louise looked this way always made Daisy feel deeply alone. The onshore winds kicked up a notch and ruffled the surface of the ocean. She knew she should stay with her mom, but more than anything, she wanted to go in search of the horse. Moon meant more to her than just the job. She loved him something fierce.

Only one thing was clear: their lives would never be the same.


Excerpted from Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman, Copyright © 2021 by Sara Ackerman. Published by MIRA Books. 

USA Today bestselling author Sara Ackerman was born and raised in Hawaii. She studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. When she's not writing or teaching, you'll find her in the mountains or in the ocean. She currently lives on the Big Island with her boyfriend and a houseful of bossy animals. Find out more about Sara and her books at www.ackermanbooks.com and follow her on Instagram @saraackermanbooks and on FB @ackermanbooks.


Social Links:

Author Website

Facebook: @ackermanbooks

Twitter: @AckermanBooks

Instagram: @saraackermanbooks

Pinterest


Buy Links:

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/radar-girls/9780778332046

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Radar-Girls-Sara-Ackerman/dp/0778332047

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/radar-girls-sara-ackerman/1137495104?ean=9780778332046

Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=radar+girls

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/radar-girls/id1527864335

Books A Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Radar-Girls/Sara-Ackerman/9780778332046?id=8062375558156

Target: https://www.target.com/p/radar-girls-by-sara-ackerman-paperback/-/A-81262195

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/radar-girls

Google Play: https://books.google.com/books/about/Radar_Girls.html?id=Y7v3DwAAQBAJ 

 

 

 

July 13, 2021

Release Day Spotlight: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

The Final Girl Support Group
Author: Grady Hendrix
Genre: Horror/Thriller/Mystery
Release Date: July 13, 2021
Publisher: Berkley

Description:

A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires.

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who's left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she's not alone. For more than a decade she's been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette's worst fears are realized--someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.
 

Grady Hendrix is the author of the novels Horrorstör, about a haunted IKEA, and My Best Friend's Exorcism, which is like Beaches meets The Exorcist, only it's set in the Eighties. He's also the author of We Sold Our Souls, The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, and the upcoming (July 13!) Final Girl Support Group!

He's also the jerk behind the Stoker award-winning Paperbacks from Hell, a history of the 70's and 80's horror paperback boom, which contains more information about Nazi leprechauns, killer babies, and evil cats than you probably need.

And he's the screenwriter behind Mohawk, which is probably the only horror movie about the War of 1812 and Satanic Panic.

You can listen to free, amazing, and did I mention free podcasts of his fiction on Pseudopod. He also does a podcast called Super Scary Haunted Homeschool.

If you're not already sick of him, you can learn all his secrets at his website.

(Author bio and photo taken from Goodreads)

 

 

  

July 8, 2021

Kill All Your Darlings Blog Tour: Excerpt

Kill All Your Darlings
Author: David Bell
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
Release Date: July 6, 2021
Publisher: Berkley

Description:

After years of struggling to write following the deaths of his wife and son, English professor Connor Nye publishes his first novel, a thriller about the murder of a young woman.

There's just one problem: Connor didn't write the book. His missing student did. And then she appears on his doorstep, alive and well, threatening to expose him.

Connor's problems escalate when the police insist details in the novel implicate him in an unsolved murder from two years ago. Soon Connor discovers the crime is part of a disturbing scandal on campus and faces an impossible dilemma--admit he didn't write the book and lose his job or keep up the lie and risk everything. When another murder occurs, Connor must clear his name by unraveling the horrifying secrets buried in his student's manuscript.

This is a suspenseful, provocative novel about the sexual harassment that still runs rampant in academia--and the lengths those in power will go to cover it up.
  

Now that it’s out, I feel agitated, restless. My thoughts are a jumble. “Do you want a drink or something?” I ask. “I think I need bourbon.”

“Sure,” she says. “I always drank when you paid.”

I go back out to the kitchen, Grendel at my heels. It’s cold out, and I’d turned the heat down when I left the house. But I feel flushed, sweaty. Almost like I have a fever. I open the corner cabinet and take down a bottle of Rowan’s Creek and two glasses. When Jake was born, twenty years ago, Emily’s brother gave me a bottle of Rowan’s Creek, so whenever I drink it, I think of my son. My hand shakes as I pour.

Grendel starts eating. I hear his chomping in the corner.

“You were drinking a lot when I last saw you.”

I turn toward Madeline. She’s standing in the doorway from the living room, leaning against the jamb.

“I was,” I say. “I’ve cut back. A lot. I had to.” I hand her the glass, trying to control the trembling. “But I think I could use one or maybe two tonight.”

“I guess it isn’t every day that a ghost shows up in your house.”

I swallow and lean back against the counter. “They looked for you, Madeline. Searches all over campus and town. It was on the news. Some people thought you just up and ran off on a whim. Some students do that. Impulse trips.”

“Some kids can afford to do that.”

“Right. But they looked in your apartment. You left all your books and clothes behind. You were an excellent student, an honors student, a few months away from getting a degree. And you stopped coming to class. The police questioned everybody who’d had any contact with you, including me. Especially me because we were all at the bar that night.”

“And I left Dubliners right after you did.”

“Right. Some of this is fuzzy. How I got home...how I even managed to get my key in the lock and get inside...I kind of think you came with me...but I don’t know how far...”

“Out in the living room you were talking about the book,” she says, arms crossed, glass in front of her. “After you read it and wanted to talk to me and I was gone.”

I finish my first glass and pour another. This is it, I tell myself. Just two drinks.

“You know I have to publish to get tenure,” I say. “That’s the way to survive in academia.”

“I’ve heard about that.” “Publish or perish, they call it.” “It sounds awfully bleak.”

“It can be,” I say. “And I hadn’t published anything in the seven years I’d been here. That book of stories Autumn Sunset came out when I was still in graduate school, so it didn’t count. If you don’t get tenure, you get fired. And if I didn’t get tenure here, I probably wouldn’t get hired anywhere else. They’d see I failed to produce, and no one would touch me. Why would they want a middle-aged guy with a huge blank spot in his publication record?”

“You could tell them about your family,” Madeline says.

“Sure. And the university here gave me an extra year for bereavement. I still couldn’t produce a book or even a few stories.” Grendel appears to be finished eating. He slurps some water, shakes his head, and goes back out to his perch on the couch. “Dr. White, the department chair, is a pretty good friend. And he really looked out for me. But he could only do so much. And he was really on me, reminding me what was at stake. He kept telling me, ‘Just produce something, Connor.’”

“No pressure, right? Hurry up and write an entire book while you’re grieving.”

“Life goes on at some point.” I drink some more. “The world doesn’t stop forever. Six months had passed after you disappeared. Six months. No one really said it out loud, but everybody was thinking the same thing. After a few days—a week, really—people were thinking the worst had happened. That you weren’t coming back. That you were dead. Murdered. Even your mom said it in an interview she did with the local paper. Does she know you’re—”

“I’ll call her soon,” Madeline says, her voice sharp. “You just finish telling me about the book and how all of this happened.”

We’ve reversed roles. She’s asking the questions. She’s playing the part of authority figure. And I feel compelled to answer her and give a full accounting of myself.

“I had your book,” I say. “Almost all handwritten. And you were gone. And I had an agent interested in my writing from years ago, although I wasn’t even sure she still knew I existed. I took your handwritten book and retyped it on my computer.”

“You gave me a hard time about turning in a handwritten draft. I told you my computer died.”

“It turned out to be to my advantage. I made some of the revisions as I went along. I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to send it anywhere, that I was just going to type the book out as an exercise, a way to get my own creative juices flowing again. But the deadline was coming up for my tenure review. And I really wasn’t sure how I would handle it if I lost this job. On top of everything else, to be unemployed with nowhere to go.”

Madeline shows concern as she listens. She’s nodding, encouraging me to keep talking. And it feels good, really good, to finally unburden myself of the secret I’ve been carrying around for the past eighteen months. Even if I am unburdening myself to the person most directly harmed by my actions.

“It’s so hard to get a book published,” I say. “What are the chances for anyone? It was a whim. A Hail Mary play. But my agent loved the story. And within a few weeks, an editor loved it. And bought it. I kept telling myself to speak up, to tell them it wasn’t mine. But the train just kept gathering momentum and...I have to be honest...after everything that had gone wrong for me, after all my struggles with writing, to hear people saying such nice things felt really, really good.”

I look at her, and she swallows some of her bourbon. The look on her face has shifted, from concern and understanding to something I can’t really read. Her eyes look flat and cold, pale marbles staring back at me.

“I’m sorry, Madeline,” I say. “I really am.”

She takes her time responding, and then says, “Don’t worry. I didn’t show up here without a plan for how you’ll make this all right.”

Excerpted from KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS by David Bell, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by David Bell 


David Bell is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning suspense novelist. His most recent thriller from Berkley/Penguin is KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS. His previous novels include THE REQUEST, LAYOVER, SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER, BRING HER HOME, SINCE SHE WENT AWAY, SOMEBODY I USED TO KNOW, THE FORGOTTEN GIRL, NEVER COME BACK, THE HIDING PLACE, and CEMETERY GIRL. He is currently a Professor of English at Western Kentucky University and can be reached via his website at www.davidbellnovels.com, on Twitter at Twitter.com/davidbellnovels, and on Facebook at Facebook.com/davidbellnovels.